LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Friday that the coronavirus variant first discovered in India has the potential to derail the lockdown easing currently underway in the country.
The U.K. will now accelerate second doses of vaccines for the over-50s and the clinically vulnerable due to concerns over the variant from India.
Speaking at a press conference Friday, Johnson said the variant looked to be more transmissible than other variants, but cautioned that it wasn’t clear by how much. England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty added that there’s “confidence” it’s “more transmissible” than the strains already circulating in the country.
Johnson also added that there was currently no evidence that the variant would evade the vaccines that are being deployed across the country.
Data on the new variant published Thursday by Public Health England showed that the number of cases across the U.K. had risen from 520 last week to 1,313 this week, with most cases concentrated in northwest England and a few clusters in London.
The U.K.’s vaccine rollout has been one of the fastest in the world, with almost 70% of the adult population having received at least one shot. Vaccines are available to anyone over age 38, but the government has said they could be made available to younger people living in multigenerational households.
The next phase of England’s exit from lockdown is scheduled for Monday, when indoor socializing, hospitality and entertainment will resume.
—CNBC’s Elliot Smith contributed to this article.
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